Are you really being recruited?
Being recruited by college coaches is the dream of most any high school student-athlete. After all, kids and parents sacrifice a lot of time, effort and money over the years for the chance to play at the college level. So, when they receive recruiting letters, kids and parents are justifiably excited. "It's happening! Coaches are recruiting me!" Striving for this goal is worthwhile because of all the benefits kids enjoy from participating in sports. And, nearly every high school athlete who has worked hard, performed well in their sport and in the classroom has a legitimate opportunity to play at the college level.
Upsides of being a college student-athlete
When our scouts visit homes to interview prospects, we often ask them what they think it would be like to become a college student-athlete? A few understand and have a true vision of themselves in that position, but many do not. Here are a few of the benefits you could enjoy:
- Family. Entering college can be scary. You are in essence starting all over again, like when you were a freshman in high school. But, as a college athlete you will immediately become a part of a family (your team) with someone there to watch out for your welfare (the coaches).
- Structure. Arriving on a college campus may be your first time away from home with adult responsibilities. As part of a team in college, your schedule will give you structure in your academic, athletic and social schedule. This structure is something many freshman athletes need to help them through the early days of getting accustomed to college life.
- Security. In all likelihood, the coach will put you in a dorm room with another athlete. This will help your parents to be more confident in your well being and allow you to have a "built-in" friend when you arrive on campus.
- Course selection. Because you will have a demanding schedule much of the year, the coaches and other players will give you good advice on which courses to choose. Taking courses which will allow you to meet your practice times is crucial, so having this on-campus advice is a true benefit.
- Meal plans. College coaches want to make certain that their athletes remain healthy, so they will direct you to the best meal plans and offer you advice on what to eat to maintain your endurance and strength.
- Clothes. Athletes in college are provided with a variety of clothes to wear for practices, games and around campus. These are clothes the other students will not have available to them, so wearing team gear makes you stand out in the student body as an athlete for the school.
- Travel. A college athlete's schedule typically includes a good deal of travel which most of the other college students do not get to do. Over your career it is not unusual for a college student-athlete to have seen a variety of unique cities, sites and other interesting places.
Decoding a coach's message
Many prospects and parents think they are being recruited when they really are not. Where there is smoke, there is not always fire when it comes to recruiting. Common questions such as How can I know if a coach is serious? What do the letters really mean? Where do I stand? What do I tell my friends and family? run through a prospect's mind. It can be, and often is, confusing and frustrating. But, that is the nature of recruiting. If you are not tuned into these nuances, or if your closest advisors are unaware of how to read between the lines of coaches' letters and emails, you could easily be led down the wrong path, misunderstand a coach's meaning or worse yet, think you are high on a coach's list when you are not. You might think that a college coach is ready to make you an offer when that is not what his or her message actually says. In truth, having such insight is not something you should expect of someone who is not professionally trained, nor who is has been intimately involved in college recruiting day after day. Yet, knowing how recruiting works is critical to your mindset, confidence and eventual success.
Here are some helpful ways to determine your status with college coaches:
You're NOT being recruited if...
- You have received information from college's admissions office. This information has nothing to do with being recruited to be an athlete for the college. Actually, you are being enticed through a highly-effective direct marketing program by the colleges to consider them your freshman year. Colleges purchase mailing lists of prospective students from several sources, but most likely they got your name and address from the companies which administered the standardized tests you took such as the PSAT, the ACT or the SAT. Taking these tests means you are serious about attending college. That's all most colleges need to send you a general info letter.
- You have received a letter and questionnaire from a college coach. The good news is that you are in the first stage of the process which is called "recognition." Getting recognized is the initial and most crucial stage of the process. If this doesn't occur, the process cannot begin in earnest. The number of questionnaires which you receive nearly always tells you how many coaches know about you, but it does not mean these coaches are recruiting you. Upon receiving and reviewing your returned questionnaire, a coach will determine if you basically meet the program's endothecia, speed, ranking, strength, grades. All these are important determinants. If so, then you will advance to Stage 2, "evaluation."
- A college coach watches you at a tournament, a travel or club team event or meet. While it is rare for college coaches to discover talent at these events (they usually enter the gates with a list of players they have already evaluated on paper and on tape), keep your fingers crossed that they see you make a great play, hit a double off the wall, come from behind in a race or shoot the round of your life. But, unless you are already on their "list," it's doubtful things will go much farther. Even if a college coach asks someone, perhaps your coach, about you, until you receive a questionnaire, note, email or phone call from the coach, you are not being recruited.
- You receive a letter or email from a coach saying that he or she will keep up with you. Coaches have a long list of prospects and they keep all their options open until they decide on the top few athletes they will decide to invite to their campus for official visits. For this reason, they keep a number of athletes interested with the "we will keep up with you" statement. Recruiting is a business. It is a hard, but true fact and prospects are too often paralyzed by these letters into doing nothing or waiting day after day for the coach to make an offer which in all likelihood will not come. Coaches must simultaneously woo their top recruits as they keep second tier prospects on a string. This is the way they accomplish their goal. While not entirely fair, it is nonetheless the nature of recruiting.
- A college coach calls your high school or travel team coach to ask for information about you. Again, the good news is that if a coach has gotten to the stage of calling others about your abilities, you are at the very least on their list of players to seriously evaluate. College coaches must be time management pros. So, there are a number of reasons they might call your coach. They may not know your address or phone number. They may have heard about you, but have not seen you perform in person. Maybe they want to know your upcoming schedule. A call of this sort means one thing - you are somewhere in the evaluation process, but not necessarily being recruited.
You ARE being recruited if...
- A college coach calls you at home twice. Once is not enough. It must be twice. Why? If a coach did not "click" with you or if your parents obstructed the process in some way, you may not hear from that particular coach again. But, if the coach calls and talks to you twice, he or she is interested and wants you to know that you are on his or her list of recruits.
- A college coach comes to your home field, court or course to specifically see you play. Time is precious for coaches and budgets are tight. When they spend time and money to specifically see you play in person, they are interested in evaluating you in person and learning more about you as an athlete and person.
- A college coach invites you on an official visit. Official visits are not handed out like candy to everyone who walks by. Not to be confused with unofficial visits, when a coach invites you to spend time with the coaching staff and the team, you have made it to the final recruiting stage. Make the most of it because this is serious stuff.
You're in trouble when...
- You have only a few questionnaires (or none at all) from college coaches. There are nearly 3,000 colleges carrying most sports across the nation. How many know about you? Count your questionnaires. That's how many. It's time to find help.
- You believe it when somebody tells you that if you are good enough college coaches will find you. That old saying no longer applies. With competition fierce for scholarships and roster spots, if your profile and videotape are not made available to a wide range of coaches, there is a good chance you will not be noticed, evaluated and recruited.
- You believe that a friend or relative's "connections" will get you a scholarship offer. That's old school thinking which seldom works out for prospects. College coaches are notorious for not seriously following up on kids brought to them by co-workers, old friends and program supporters. Yes, they will send letters, but it is unlikely anything will come of it. Coaches have their own processes which they trust and rely heavily upon.
- You do not have good statistics and videotape to give college coaches upon their request. Most college coaches make their first evaluation of prospects based on the substantiated numbers the kids make available. While many high school and travel coaches will say they don't want their players to "focus too much on stats," the reality exists that prospects need good stats if they expect to get recruited. Otherwise, they are at a distinct disadvantage. And, the kids need to have ready access to these numbers so that they can relay them to college coaches. Videotape is another essential part of the evaluation process. Prospects must have good game footage, in most cases, to enable college coaches to properly and fairly evaluate them.
- You have narrowed your choice of colleges down to less than five you will consider attending BEFORE the recruiting process starts. The chances of you fitting those five specific coaches' needs (athletically, position, size, speed, strength, statistics and grades) are not in your favor. For this reason, extending your options is a much, much better plan.
- You think walking on is a great option. If you are a true competitor, you will want to play in college, not just practice and sit on the sidelines while scholarship athletes are the only ones receiving significant playing time. Colleges love for you to walk on because you will be paying, in most cases, the entire fee to attend that school. You cost a coach nothing. However, walk-ons rarely see much playing time and typically miss out on things like making travel squads and living in the dorms with the scholarship athletes. If you must take this route, do your best to secure the status of "invited walk-on." Most walk-on athletes stay in the program only one or two years.